Book Trailers: For fun or profit?

Clapper BoardIt happens every time I finish a book-length project. I begin to think about marketing the book to readers who might like/love/need/enjoy it. Of course if it’s a non-fiction book, I’ve given it a lot of thought up front because publishers these days want a fairly well-fleshed-out marketing plan from an author as part of the book proposal long before the book is even completed. If it’s a piece of fiction, I write what I write then think about marketing it after it’s published. I can’t help it; I’m a writer not a content creator! But, what about that marketing?

Well, it’s like this. There are lots of places these days that will purport to be the best places to get your book in front of readers; however, on closer inspection, the members are usually other wannabe writers trying to get their books in front of readers. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. But, if you have a book that takes off, good for you. The elements of a well-constructed book marketing plan may or may not be part of it. But, what precisely is included in that plan?

One of the elements often touted these days is the inclusion of a book trailer. What is a book trailer, you say? Glad you asked, because I love developing them – whether or not they are really useful marketing tools (more about that as we proceed).

I’ve written about book trailers before – almost every time I have a new one I can hardly wait to write about them – not because they are so wonderful, but because I think they are fun. Yes, that’s it – I think they’re fun.

As I defined them in a long-ago blog post, “…a book trailer is a short video clip that presents a small sample of a book in a similar format to that of a movie.” When I wrote that original post (Book trailers Part 1) and its follow-up (Book Trailers: What’s the Point?) way back in 2011, book trailers were very new. There was very little information on the impact they may or may not have on books sales, but what I did perceive at the time was this: quite apart from the unknown of whether or not someone would actually be inclined to buy a book based on seeing a trailer, how that trailer made its way onto someone’s computer screen would be paramount in finding out if it could be be an effective sales tool.

Fast-forward five years, and here we are still discussing the same issue. Again, I’ve been searching for data on the impact of book trailers.

There is little doubt that in the past five years online video in general has seen an incredible upsurge. That by itself, however, doesn’t bolster any data supporting the usefulness of the book trailer. According to one video trailer producer, “Readers are 64% more likely to purchase your book if they see a book trailer that effectively promotes your book. (Source: ComScore)” and “Visitors to your author website stay an average of 2 minutes longer than on author sites that do not use video. (Source: ComScore)”.[1] FYI: according to their web site ComScore is “a leading cross-platform measurement company that precisely measure audiences, brands and consumer behavior…”[2] Of course, MacLain reiterates the notion that distribution is key. You can have the most fantastic, well-planned and well-executed video but if no one knows it exists, its going to be for your eyes only.

Of course there are reasons you might want to skip the book trailer production all together. Marisol Dahl, writing on The Write Life Blog suggests that a bad book trailer is worse than no trailer at all, and further reiterates that it can be difficult to determine return on investment (and the investment can be massive).[3]

The truth is that most of those touting the value of book trailers are usually individuals and companies who actually produce trailers. Unless they have hard data, their promotion of book trailers as a sales tool is pretty self-serving. Book trailers certainly should be useful marketing tools if we just had a way to track their success after wide distribution.

I personally love planning and writing scripts for book trailers then giving that script to my trusty video developer (my husband) and letting him loose on the material. I keep them brief (certainly under two minutes, generally under a minute-and-a-half), and share them as widely as I can. So, if you’ve considered a book trailer I can give you several caveats as a writer for their production.

You probably want a book trailers if:

  1. You think it’s fun to have one;
  2. You can write a brief, tight script;
  3. You can give the potential reader a glimpse of the material without giving it all away;
  4. You can afford to produce one;
  5. You have somewhere to post it; and
  6. You have no illusions about how many sales it might garner.

If you can’t fulfil all of these, you might want to step away.

Anyway, I think they’re fun. If you a minute, here’s my latest trailer for my new medical thriller The Body Traders.

 

 

[1] Jerome MacLain as quoted in “Book Trailers And Using Video For Book Marketing” by Joanna Penn (March 2, 2015). http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/03/02/book-trailers/

[2] https://www.comscore.com/About-comScore

[3] Marison Dahl November 5, 2015. “Are Book Trailers a Marketing Must-Have?” http://thewritelife.com/are-book-trailers-a-marketing-must-have/

Book trailers (Part 2): What’s the point?

Perhaps the trailer for my new book Grace Note that I posted in part 1 of this book trailer discussion is the only one you’ve ever seen.  But take my word for it: there are thousands for book trailers around.  Just visit booktrailers or book trailers for readers or book screening  to see what I mean.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  But the question still remains:  Is there a point (or bottom line enhancement) to this new addition to the book marketers’ strategies?

I did a bit of empirical research on this question.  Sound impressive?  I posted a couple of questions on a couple of book sites to ask these avid readers if book trailers ever influence their book-buying.  The general theme of the comments was a resounding “no.”  A couple of responders, though, did suggest that book trailers might influence their selection of non-fiction more strongly than fiction.  Perhaps that’s because it’s perceived that a book trailer might provide some information that would help you to see what’s inside the book like we used to do when we all browsed bookstores.  However, with those nifty “see inside the book” options on web-based bookstores, we already get that experience.

As hard as I’ve tried, I have been unable to unearth any credible stats on the success (or lack thereof) of book trailers in promoting new books.  There are vague references to engaging younger readers such as teens by using this visual medium via YouTube, and further references to placing book trailers into movie previews in theaters, although I would wager a guess that this would likely confuse the audience.  Is it a movie?  Is it a book?

A 2008 article in the industry publication Bookseller discussed how book publishers were at that point finally becoming aware of the potential of social media in selling books.  At that time, author Hannah Davies suggested that, “Publishers are starting to prove their online credentials, despite initially lagging behind other creative industries in the development of user-friendly and content-rich websites.”[1]  That lag in the book selling industry doesn’t surprise me much given my 20+ years of experience as an author within the traditional publishing industry.  She quotes the results of a study by the PR firm Fleishman-Hilliard who studied the buying habits of 5000 people and concluded that “…the internet has eight times the impact of traditional print media on the average consumer’s buying decisions.”  That’s interesting and probably sufficient
rationale for using web-based marketing, but it still doesn’t support book trailers per se.

It seems that the publisher Wiley was one of the first to use videos to promote books by posting an early  series of videos on YouTube to support its business and personal development titles.  This might be the reason that one of the responders to my informal survey indicated that she might buy a non-fiction book while another one said that she didn’t even know there were book trailers for fiction.

The frustrating thing about the issue of book trailers is that although they’re fun (and fairly easy to produce) there is no evidence that they actually contribute materially to the success of a book in the market place.  When asked if they are cost-effective, it seems that publishers point to the relatively low cost of a book trailer as part of an essential online publicity campaign, regardless of its effectiveness.[2]

All of this has gotten me thinking:  I think I’ll develop a book trailer for my book Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practice the second edition of which was published by Kogan-Page in the UK in 2009.  Should be a real blockbuster, don’t you
think?